What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that teenagers often see themselves in this story about kids who are going through a turbulent adolescence. The realistic character study seems to touch young readers, who frequently undergo similar uncertainty.
What's the story?
Best friends become enemies when one accepts violence and crime and the other turns against that life. Bryon and Mark grow up together on the wrong side of the tracks, get into fights, and hustle pool. But Bryon changes, while Mark doesn't. Teenagers love the gritty realism of this novel and the story of a boy's inner turmoil.
Is it any good?
Young readers who enjoyed S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, one of the most popular of young-adult novels, often want to read this one, which contains realistic portrayals of the same tough, wrong-side-of-the-track kids -- including Ponyboy Curtis, who shows up as a minor character. But while The Outsiders simply exploits pathos, THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW explores more complex ideas only touched on in the earlier book. It's a superior effort, one that even extremely reluctant readers understand and enjoy.
Much like The Outsider, this book examines friendship and loyalty. But in this case, the main character, Bryon, turns in his best friend, Mark, to the police. It's a major transformation for Bryon, who states throughout the book that he hates cops. Unlike Mark, Bryon tires of the constant violence of his neighborhood. He's stunned when he hears the story of a hospitalized boy who refuses to hate his attackers, even though he had tried to help their friend. Bryon begins thinking about the futility of revenge and the cycle of violence it causes.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the realities of being a teenager in the 1950s (the time period in which this book is set) and how it compares with the struggles of being a teen today.
Why does Byron hate the police? What prompts him to grow weary of all
the violence that surrounds him on a daily basis? Do you agree with
Byron's decision to turn Mark into the cops?
Have you ever felt
similarly conflicted by your desire to stay loyal to a friend but, at
the same time, to do the right thing?